December 07, 2023

Korean Activist Held and Tortured in China Seeks to Get Even

Looking thin and gaunt, but wearing a strong and determined expression, Kim Young-hwan, a leading South Korean advocate of North Korean human rights, told foreign reporters Monday that he was severely tortured by Chinese authorities while being detained for over 100 days in China for trying to help North Korean refugees there.

Despite my repeated requests for an interview, Kim, who was just released last month after being tortured and detained in China for months, had been refusing to talk to me about his ordeal. But today, for the first time, he broke his silence, answering foreign journalists' questions for the first time since he came back to Seoul. A former supporter of North Korea's "juche" or self-reliance ideology, Kim later became a critic of the North's human rights transgressions, and was caught and arrested, along with three other rights activists from South Korea, in China near its border with North Korea in March. They were held inside China until July, when they were finally released. The four comrades had also gone there to investigate reports of violations of the basic rights of North Korean defectors hiding close to the border, and to provide support to underground pro-democracy groups inside the communist North.